UK: Indian student group launches the “Fair Visa Fair Chance” campaign.

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Posted on April 5, 2024


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The post-study Graduate Route visa, which has been incredibly popular with Indian students since its introduction almost three years ago, is the subject of a new “Fair Visa, Fair Chance” campaign launched on Thursday by one of the leading Indian student representative organizations in the UK.

The National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK is concerned that the current review of the route would undo the gains accomplished. NISAU UK was one of the original campaigners for the visa that permits overseas graduates to obtain work experience for two years following their degree.

UK Home Secretary James Cleverly has commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to evaluate the Graduate Route visa and make sure it is “fit for purpose.” The MAC is due to report by the end of the month.

According to Lord Karan Bilimoria, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on International Students and supporter of NISAU UK, “the ability to work for two years post-graduation helps international students to earn money to help pay for their degrees and enable some to get valuable work experience as well as to continue to build strong links with the UK.”

We must provide post-graduation employment prospects that are appealing in order to compete with nations like the United States of America, Canada, and Australia. We are in a global competition. Universities are already witnessing a sharp drop in the number of applications from overseas students due to the worry that the two-year post-graduation work visa will be eliminated, he added. This is sending out needless and harmful negative signals throughout the world.

In addition, he cautioned that if the Graduate Route were to be restricted, Britain would be “shooting itself in the foot” considering the GBP 42 billion that overseas students provide to the UK economy.

The Home Office reports that since the route was reopened for the 2020–21 foreign student cohort, a total of 213,250 visas have been issued; Indian students have continuously dominated this category, accounting for 43% of grants last year, making them the largest group of students granted leave to remain.

It is somewhat regrettable that we must argue in favor of post-study working in the UK just a few years after it was reinstated. Sanam Arora, chair of NISAU UK and commissioner of the UK’s International Higher Education Commission, stated that the Graduate visa is a vital necessity for Indian students and an essential component of the UK’s international higher education system.

“We fought for this vital pathway’s reinstatement for seven years the last time around, and we’ll do it again. If the Graduate route doesn’t exist, university finances might crumble. Given that domestic students and the world-class research conducted in UK universities is extensively cross-subsidized by international students, the impact of this will be negative not only for international students but also for UK home students, she said.

In addition to sharing its own research and insights from the annual India-UK Achievers Honours program—which honors deserving Indian graduates from the UK who have made outstanding contributions to their respective fields and society at large—NISAU UK has been invited to present evidence to MAC.

The most recent data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) indicates that applications from Indian students have decreased by 4%, suggesting that Indian students are already beginning to exhibit signs of being discouraged from applying to British universities.

The Home Office’s claim to draw in the “brightest and the best” is called into question, though, as MAC analysis shows that between 2018 and 2022, the proportion of foreign postgraduate students attending universities with the lowest UCAS entry requirements climbed by more than 250 percent.

“More fundamentally, we suggest that the government needs to decide what the purpose of the Graduate Route is,” stated MAC in its annual report, which was completed before the review was revealed in Parliament at the end of last year. It looks to have been a huge success if its main goal is to improve the offer to foreign students who choose to study in the UK and so increase the number of international students in higher education.”

“We are sceptical that it adds much to the Skilled Worker route, which was already available to switch into after graduation, and we expect that at least a significant fraction of the Graduate Route will comprise low-wage workers,” the statement read. “If the objective is to attract talented students who will subsequently work in high-skilled graduate jobs.”